Bill to expand tele-health services

Tonight the Mass. House has approved a major health care bill (H. 4888) with a focus on expanding tele-health services. Under the legislation tele-health services would be accessible for primary care, behavioral health, and chronic disease management. This includes use of audio-video technology (i.e. Zoom) as well as audio-only telephone visits. Doctors would be able to prescribe medication for previously diagnosed conditions or make one-time prescriptions for acute illnesses. The legislation ensures insurance pay parity through July 31, 2021 for tele-health and makes pay parity *permanent* for all behavioral health services which is great news. Additional tele-health services will be studied for possible inclusion by the Health Policy Commission. The bill also:

• Expands scope for nurse practitioners & psychiatric nurse specialists

• Extends COVID-19 coverage for emergency, inpatient services, including diagnostics & labs

• Provides enhanced Medicaid payments to support independent community hospitals

• Eliminates MassHealth requirement for referral before accessing urgent care facility.

• Assist nursing homes by requiring MassHealth to cover bed cost for up to 20 days if resident is being treated in a hospital for COVID-19

Among the amendments adopted is one that I filed to establish a PANDAS/PANS Advisory Council under the Department of Public Health.

The House bill now moves to the Senate and I would expect a Conference Committee to be appointed soon.